Therapeutic Nutrition

By Dr. Gina L. Nick
July 2007 issue of
Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients
Pages 141-145

In this article you will learn how to do the following:

Select the right forms of vitamins and minerals. Maximize the effectiveness of isolated vitamins and minerals. Attain supra-levels of energy, strength, and endurance. Optimize the absorption of essential vitamins, minerals and trace minerals. Select the highest quality, most bio-available, and active forms of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and essential phytochemicals. Ensure safety and results when selecting herbs

Selecting the best foods for you to eat on a daily basis is the first step in improving your vitality and well-being. This can be determined through a variety of ways including trial and error, Ayurvedic typing (as discussed in the book Yogic Nutrition, available at: lab testing for food allergy/sensitivities, experiencing an elimination diet, and working with various food groups based on your blood type. The next step is adding the right nutritional and herbal supplements to your daily regimen to further enhance your state of well-being and significantly improve your quality of life.

Unfortunately, it is often overwhelming to walk into a natural food store, or even the pharmacy section at your local grocery, in search of a nutritional supplement or a natural medicine. There are so many choices, and it can be quite challenging to figure out which on of the hundreds of products in front of you will achieve the positive effect on your health that you seek. You might go with the lest expensive product, or the one that the 18 year old sales associate says is best, or you might close your eyes and point randomly to make your choice.

The information in this article will empower you with the knowledge to help guide you to select the right product for you with the knowledge to help guide you to select the right product for you. This won’t necessarily be the least expensive product or the one with the most attractive packaging, but it will be the highest-quality product to best suit your needs. A checklist accompanying this article summarizes the descriptions that follow. Use the straightforward checklist when you’re shopping to help you make the right selection. As always, your best bet is to work in partnership with a qualified health care professional knowledgeable in the use of natural supplements and medicines when determining what to take to address your specific needs.

The Right Forms of Vitamins and Minerals.

Let’s start with simple vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium. Each one of these vitamins and minerals are available in different forms. Just as a Lexus runs differently from a Corolla, even through they are both good transport vehicles, not all vitamins and minerals are created equally even if they are designed to have a similar basic function in the body. It can be very hard to determine the difference between one form of a vitamin and another, D1-alpha tocopherol or d-alpha tocopherol? Magnesium oxide or magnesium amino acid chelate? Which to choose? They look almost identical on the product label, but their actions on the body are far from similar. And how can you remember the best forms of vitamins and minerals to look for when you are going to purchase a multivitamin/mineral supplement? There are too many ingredients to assess.

A Simple way to do this is by focusing on a few ingredients in the formula—like vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, and calcium. I single out these ingredients, because there is no question as to the higher-quality vs. lower-quality forms of these ingredients. So, when you find the lower-quality version of any of these ingredients on a label, you have a clue as to the quality of that product and the overriding philosophy the manufacturer has on proper ingredient selection. Lower-quality ingredients usually cost less money. So when you find a company that is committed to sacrificing the amount of profit they make per bottle in order to include the best-quality ingredients in the product, you are more likely to derive greater benefits from taking the products they make.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant involved in the metabolism of all your cells. It is implicated in the prevention and treatment of heart disease, cataracts, diabetes mellitus, dementia, and even cancer. When it comes to vitamin E, choosing the only natural
Form that is actively maintained in the human body (d-alpha-tocopherol) is essential. Vitamin E actually describes a family of eight antioxidants, but d-alpha-tocopherol is naturally found in the largest quantities in our body and appears to have the most nutritional significance.
The reality is the majority of vitamins out there are synthetically made. Such vitamins can still do the job, particularly if they are consumed with foods that are natural sources of those vitamins (like wheatgrass juice, stinging nettle leaf, and other nutrient-dense foods and herbs). The optimal approach to supplementation is to satisfy your nutrient and hormone needs with whole food supplements (looks to
Superior quality companies such as Standard Process ( for research and education on whole food supplements). Another approach is to pair whole foods and herbs with stand-alone nutraceuticals or hormones that are also contained in the food. This offers insurance that all the known and as-yet unknown components that are present in nature are preserved. These components help to make the nutraceutical safe, effective, and readily available to the body.
However, I never recommend using the synthetic form of vitamin E (dl—alpha-tocopherol). While synthetic form of Vitamin E is not harmful, its beneficial effects on our body are far less than those of the natural form (d-alpha-tocopherol). D-alpha-tocopherol in our food is a single entity; all its molecules are identical. In contrast, the synthetic al-alpha-tocopherol is a mixture of eight different molecules known as stereo-isomers. Of these eight, only one is identical to the natural form. The other seven do not exist in nature, making the synthetic form far less beneficial to the body. The natural form of vitamin E has all eight members of the “E Family” present, making it much more effective and safe to use.

When selecting a vitamin E supplement, you also want to make sure that it is in a stable form. Vitamin E is susceptible to free radical damage and oxidation, so you want to make sure that is esterified. This basically means that a chemical group is added to the nutrient to ensure it remains stable to optimally perform when ingested. I like the natural vitamin E succinate for this purpose. It offers the whole range of components found in the vitamin E family, and it is stable.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is essential for proper hormone balance, energy metabolism, immune function, red blood cell formation, and nervous system function. The best isolated form of vitamin B6 on the market today is Pyridoxal-5-phosphate or P5P. A quick and easy way to gouge how committed a company is to using the highest quality raw materials is by examining what form of vitamin B6 they are using in their multivitamin/mineral product. If they use Pyridoxal-5 phosphate, you are likely choosing a company that is committed to offering superior quality nutrients.

Vitamins in an inactive form must be converted into their active coenzyme forms in order to be utilized by the body. The active form of vitamin B6 is Pyridoxal-5 phosphate (P5P). The reality is that most supplements on the market include pyridoxine HCL, an inactive form of B6 that must be converted to the active form, P5P, in the liver. P5P is essential for the following tasks: proper metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates; amino acid metabolism; the manufacture of red blood cells and antibodies; and the maintenance of digestive, nervous system, and skin health. It makes sense to invest in the active form of B6 to remove the major step of conversion in the liver and to ensure that it is readily available to perform these important functions. It is also important to note that some people have difficulty converting pyridoxine HCL to the active form P5P in the body. Such difficulty can render the nutrient useless and sometimes harmful. P5P, unlike the cheaper forms of vitamin B6 on the market today, also plays a critical role in the function of nearly 100 enzymes that speed up important chemical reactions throughout your body.


When evaluating minerals, it is critical that you look for calcium and magnesium in the forms of true amino acid chelates. True amino acid chelates refer to minerals that are surrounded by and bound to amino acids to greatly improve their bioavailability and effectiveness in the body. Many product labels say “chelated” minerals, but only those minerals that are bound in a stable manner can ethically be classified as amino acid chelates. I personally recommend and exclusively use mineral chelates developed by Albion Advanced Nutrition, because they are the only company that I am aware of that offers a complete blend of bound, stable, and well-researched chelated minerals. Albion holds over 35 patents on their mineral chelates and is regarded as the leader in mineral chelate research.

Organic Whole Super Foods

In nature, one seldom finds a single vitamin, mineral amino acid, or phytochemical existing on its own. Rather, we find complexes of multiple components operating together in harmony, to promote health, longevity, and vitality. When choosing the right dietary supplement for your needs look for a formula that includes a variety of the most bioavailable and effective vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytochemicals from organic whole food sources of those ingredients.

Research consistently reveals important links between the use of nutraceuticals delivered within a nutrient-dense whole food and trace mineral complex and the attainment of supra-levels of energy, strength, and endurance. Research also points to the elegant and dynamic interplay that occurs with this combination and shows that this approach will consistently produce greater results than using any single ingredient. The result is a better sense of vitality and additional, strength, flexibility, and balance that can take you to the next level of health and well-being.

I like the use of organic whole foods and herbs like organic stinging nettle leaves, organic wheatgrass juice, and Camu Camu berries as natural whole food sources of essential nutrients.

Ionic Trace Minerals

Trace minerals should be a part of your quality multivitamin/mineral supplement. They optimize the pH in the body and encourage ideal acid/alkaline balance. They are critical to attaining greater levels of energy, vitality, and well-being. If you believe in bioelectrical health, there is no better way to maintain bioelectrical vitality and homeostasis then through body mineral balancing with the use of trace minerals.

Trace minerals should be in an ionic form as opposed to a colloidal form. Ionic minerals are in a form that is easily recognized and utilized by the body. This ensures that the minerals are easily assimilated through selectively permeable cell membranes.

Colloidal minerals, by comparison, must first undergo a process of conversion within the body, prior to being absorbed; only a certain percentage is utilized after the conversion process. The bioavailability of a mineral is influenced by the form in which it is consumed in the diet and by the presence of other factors in the food that enhance or depress mineral absorption and utilization. Ionic trace minerals that are concentrated from ocean water likely deliver the most bioavailable and effective trace minerals available in supplement form.

Guidelines for Herbs

Selecting quality herbal supplements is critical in ensuring your safety and getting the results you are looking for with natural medicines. When it comes to herbs, there are a few simple guidelines to follow. First, try to find herbs that are either organically grown or wildcrafted. This usually means that there will be higher levels of full-spectrum active components within the herbs. Also, look to see that the herbs are standardized using full spectrum standardization. This means that the herbs are standardized to a recognizable consistent component and contain the highest available levels of full spectrum plant constituents in their balanced natural proportions.

Make sure that no potentially damaging solvents or high temperatures were used in the extraction or concentration process, which is common among herbal manufacturers. If this is not clear in the labeling, it is worthwhile to do some research on the extraction process that the supplement company uses. Most companies will tell you about their extraction process on their website. Unlike dried herbs that are simply ground up and placed into a capsule, high quality, properly processed herbs contain a carefully extracted herbal concentrate that maximizes the delivery of all the known and unknown constituents found in the plants—the way nature intended. Finally, make sure that the label includes the genus and species of the plant included in the formula. Without that information, you won’t know whether you are getting the right version of the herb with known research to support its use or a cheap counterpart. If this type of information is not disclosed by the supplement company, buy your herbal products from another company.

Look for Branded Ingredients

Companies that have invested in quality research and education and are committed to producing the best possible product usually use select ingredients that are branded. They typically cost more, but their inclusion in a nutritional supplement offers one more clue that the manufacturer is dedicated to producing the very highest quality supplement to meet your needs. Some branded ingredients to look for include Masquelier’s OPC, Suntheanine, e.d.s. enzymes, National Enzyme Company, ConcenTrace, and Regenassure.

Avoid Binders, Fillers and Tablets

Try to avoid consuming supplements that contain potentially harmful and unnecessary binders, coating , artificial colors, sweeteners, and fillers. Ingredients that should bring up a red flag include corn, wheat, soy, hydrogenated oil, aspartame, sucralose, and artificial dyes (including Blue#1, Blue#2, Green#3, Red#40, Red#3, Yellow#5, Yellow#6, Orange B, and Citrus Red#2). Select products in a capsule are generally easier to metabolize, particularly if you have compromised digestive function, which is true to most of the population today. If you are a vegetarian, make sure that the product uses vegetarian capsules.

Good Manufacturing Practices

Make sure the supplement manufacturer is certified for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Companies such as Natural Products Association (NPA, formerly NNFA) and NSF International are reputable organizations that certify nutritional supplement companies for GMP. This is a stringent process that ensures what is on the label is actually what is in the product. Current GMP (CGMP) are proposed by the Food and Drug Administration and are designed to ensure the product is not contaminated or adulterated with harmful ingredients and that your product is produced in a way that parallels the way pharmaceutical drugs are manufactured. To determine if your supplement meets GMP guidelines, contact the supplement company and ask if their manufacturing facility is GMP certified.






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